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Carol Bossard

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My favorite time of the year is drifting in with these late summer days leading into fall.  Perhaps it is due to so many years of school beginnings, but now has always seemed to me, a more appropriate onset for a new year than January.  Many cultures back in history have agreed; as harvests ended, a new year began.  Instead of snow and ice, we could look forward to weeks of blue skies and pleasant weather with, hopefully, a few more rainy days than this summer provided.  It’s time for being outside, watching birds, cats and usually a few turkeys who venture beneath the feeders in spite of those two humans in the back yard.  The rose-breasted grosbeaks are gone and the other summer birds are gathering to discuss travel plans.  Kerm did see a red poll, probably stopping on its way further south.  We seldom see migrating warblers although, with my eyesight, they could be lurking in the lilacs and I’d never know.  But even when I could see, I seldom glimpsed any.  They are fast-moving, elusive little birds who would probably rather fly a few more miles to safe Sapsucker Woods at Cornell, than to linger in our back yard patrolled by four cats.

One bird that I enjoy --- although my husband does not ---- is the crow.  Kerm’s feelings are almost certainly biased having grown up protecting corn fields, where crows and corn are not a good combination --- for the farmer.   Too, they are often annoyingly loud ---- especially when they become adolescents.  I think teenage crows have all-day parties on our hill while their parents are out scrounging for road kill.  They are intelligent birds --- and prone to pranks. They bother other birds as well as farmers, for they’ve been known to eat eggs of their avian cousins.  Sometimes one sees a whole bevy of smaller birds harassing a crow that has ventured into their territory.  But they do have their own place in the family of creatures --- as the song says, “All God’s creatures got a place in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher; some sing out loud on the telephone wire; some just clap their hands --- their paws --- or anything they got!!”*

And speaking of choirs, musical groups have suffered over the past three years.  I think ours isn’t the only one diminished in both numbers of singers and quality of voice.  I’m not saying any of us quite sound like crows, but vocal cords, like all body parts, need to be exercised to function well, and there were very few choir rehearsals during the pandemic.  After experiencing COVID, nearly a year ago, my voice has become unreliable and far more prone to “throat frogs.”  Yes, it could be age-related but if so, the virus double-timed the process.  Depth and quality are sporadic.  It is tempting to give up and just not try, but my world would be less joyful without singing.  Spencer Singers (our sextet) has been rehearsing, hoping to renew the strength and reliability of our voices.  We shall see!!  But even if we have acquired permanent disability, singing still lifts our spirits as does just being together.  It is reassuring to have kindred spirits who harmonize well, both in music and in thoughts.   And as for church choir, singing is not just for us; it is a gift to our fellow-worshipers; an expression of our faith and a shared blessing. A few vocal glitches shouldn’t stop us -------as long as we stay on key and don’t quite sound like crows!

Back to school ------- remember that new notebook with those blank pages, the new pencils with unused erasers and the aromas as you walked into school on that first day?  It was a potpourri of cafeteria food mixed with floor wax and chalk dust.  And there were those breathless few moments before everyone felt comfortable with each other again.  Currently there has been nation-wide discussion about the lack of teachers for our schools.  The reasons are complex but one thing is true.  We do need to offer teachers more respect and attentive ears.  These are trained educating professionals not convenient babysitters!  Of course, if issues arise, there should be parent-teacher discussions about what is best for one’s child, but I think most teachers truly care for the kids and are doing their best to steer them toward becoming knowledgeable and confident adults.  With the current potential for violence in schools, security in the class room is shaky.  We all need to work together for solutions.  Dads and moms who habitually ignore parent/teacher conferences, who do not become involved in their schools and who degrade good pay for teachers, are definitely one contributing part of our teacher-shortage problem.   I wish that parents, teachers and students of all ages would apply a wider perspective to education: “Every morning you rise………… there are amazing things to be a part of, and fight for, and feel, because the world will unlock hundreds of doors when you give this day all the courage, love, and intensity you can.”  **

September also offers a significant dose of nostalgia and thoughts about endings, as our calendar year wanes.  We humans generally resist endings unless we are in the midst of something we don’t like.   I was always glad when the bell rang in a math or chemistry class and I was happy to end three challenging years in one of our abodes.  Mostly I like beginnings.  However, having reached the Biblical “Four Score” years, I do feel rather as though I am living on gifted time.  Each day is to be cherished as a new beginning that runs awfully close to an ending.  And while I have no real desire to exit this life on earth (except maybe after listening to a particularly dire news broadcast 😊), I do contemplate this human surety now and then.   My personal theology doesn’t really include streets of gold or harp-strumming on a comfy pink cloud.  But if one believes at all in a Creator of all things, a universal power of GOOD, it follows that good things are never wasted including human development, imagination and love.  Humans have potential for wonderful possibilities including an immense capacity for loving.  So, I totally believe that what we call death is a transition, not an end.   JRR Tolkien*** said it well: “Still ‘round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate…”   That’s good to remember at the end of an experience, end of a year, and the end of a life. Endings often lead to new beginnings.

Believing this, however, doesn’t stop the pain when I lose family or friends to this life-change.  I desperately want them with me --- touchable ---- huggable---- able to talk on the phone ---- and stop by for tea.  I intensely miss those who have gone beyond my sight, and I’d give almost anything to keep them with me.  But, when it happens, there’s this tiny shard of comfort, knowing that they are somewhere --- and maybe not all that far away.  C.S. Lewis.*** one of my theological mentors, wrote this in The Last Battle, regarding eternal life. The wonderful land of Narnia has come to an end and the inhabitants find themselves in a new place ----the unicorn looks around and says: “I have come home at last!  This is my real country.  I belong here.  This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.  The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this……Come further up; come further in!”

Meanwhile, life here is pretty interesting.  There are friends, music, more books than I can ever read, birds, flowers, family and a daily, new ideas and possibilities.  I think we all, over a lifetime, catch glimpses of our Edens, and mine come more often when September brings autumn.   Soon the leaves will be turning rich tints that light up our wooded hills.  A change in the tilt of the sun brings darkness earlier (which I regret), nights are cooler and here, in the northeast, we get more morning fogs and heavy dews. Those fogs make our valley appear to be filled with marshmallow crème and the dew sparkles like glitter on the grass.  The chickadees again come to the feeders.  The school bus awakens me at 7:55 and kids walk by the house to and from school.  Transitions!   I like this observation from a poem by a British poet, Bliss Carman:*****

“There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood ---- Touch of manner; hint of mood; And my heart is like a rhyme, with the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.  The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry of bugles going by.  And my lonely spirit thrills to see the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.”****

Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

 

*Song:A Place In the Choir” written by Bill Staines and sung by many groups including Peter, Paul and Mary and, most recently, Celtic Thunder.  Bill Staines was born in England but lived most of his life in New Hampshire.  He was a composer and singer.  If you want your spirits raised, go to YouTube for any one of the renditions of this song.

**Victoria Erickson from “Edge of Wonder.”    An American writer, poet, dreamer.

***JRR Tolkien ---English poet, writer, philologist and academic.  Best known for his “Lord of the Rings” series and “The Hobbit”.  1892-1973.

****C.S. Lewis --- British scholar, writer and Anglican lay theologian; a Don at Oxford University.  He has written the “Chronicles of Narnia”, “The Great Divorce”, “Mere Christianity”, “Out of a Silent Planet”, “The Reluctant Convert” and many others.  1898-1963.

*****Bliss Carman --- Quoted are the first two stanzas of A Vagabond Song.  Bliss Carman was a British subject, born in Canada, who lived much of his life in Connecticut.  He was, late in life, honored a Poet Laureate of Canada.  1861-1929.

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